Friday, February 20, 2015

How do you forgive evil?

It's a common question, and a tough one.  When the question moves from abstract to personal--from news of Isis atrocities committed far away to evil experienced in our own lives and households, it can shake a person's self-proclaimed Christian faith to the core.  In the gospels Jesus tells us that when someone hurts us we should "turn the other cheek", i.e., if someone punches you in the jaw, turn and let them punch the other side as well.  But does this mean that we look the other way, never talk about the incident, and attempt to go on as though nothing ever happened?

Nothing would please the perpetrator of evil more.  To keep silent and look the other way allows him or her to carry on and harm others.

Forgiveness is active, not passive.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't feel--and express--anger and righteous indignation.  It doesn't mean we don't confront the evildoer, and face him or her with the harm done. Whenever possible, we should stand up and fight for justice, and get the perpetrator to make reparations.

But that isn't always possible.  And no amount of money, apology, or years spent in prison can make up for the innocence lost and lives destroyed or forever altered by the truly evil act.

Here is where faith enters in.  Because God can heal and restore.  He can, and does, take what was meant for evil and transform it into beautiful, impossible good.  Yes, this "good" will be different than what would have been.  The damage sustained, the losses incurred, are real.  But if we entrust them to God, he will pick up the broken pieces of our lives and create something beautiful and powerful and pure.  Maybe even more beautiful than what would have been had the bad things never happened.

If we will entrust ourselves to God, and believe that he will heal and restore and provide everything we truly need.  The Bible says, everything we truly desire, and then some.

If we will trust that God will bring true and full justice to doers of evil.  In the Bible, no one gets away with anything.  But we . . . we have to let it go.  Let go of our rights for full and complete justice, which isn't possible here on earth anyway.  Let go of our desire for revenge; to hurt as we have been hurt.

It's a lot to ask.  A lot to entrust.  But this is what God asks of us.